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Govt planning to set up fisheries infrastructure development fund

The Union Government is planning to set up a fisheries infrastructure development fund soon to give a boost to the sector as part of the blue revolution project and it will be of immense help to individuals, entrepreneurs, consortia and other stake-holders, according to E Ramesh Kumar, Joint Secretary (Fisheries) in the Union Ministry of Agriculture.

He was speaking at the inaugural of the National Fish Farmers' Day being celebrated here on Monday and Tuesday by the National Fisheries Development Board.

He said Nabard, scheduled banks and other government agencies would be involved in implementing the scheme and roughly Rs 7,500 crore would be set apart for the fund. "Entrepreneurs and others in the fisheries sector can get finance at 6 per cent rate of interest for infra projects and the repayment period will be 12 years, with a moratorium of two years," he said.

He said another scheme to convert fishing trawlers into tuna long-liners to encourage deep-sea fishing was in the offing and "Andhra Pradesh, especially Visakhapatnam, could emerge as a major centre for tuna fishing."

Kumar also spoke about the welfare schemes for fishermen, such as introduction of bio-metric cards for them, and steps to ensure safety of fishermen at sea.

He said the target was to boost fish production in the country to 15 million tonnes by 2021 from the present level of roughly 11.5-12 mt. "There is still a lot of untapped potential in the inland fisheries sector," he added.

He sounded a note of caution, referring to the use of anti-biotics in fish and shrimp culture and how some of the shrimp consignments from Andhra Pradesh were rejected in the western markets due to residues.

The Joint Secretary said a concerted campaign should be taken up to educate the farmers and others on the harmful effects of anti-biotics and chemicals in culture and preservation of fish. Presence of formalin in the fish, found in the Chennai markets, was a matter of concern.

AP Fisheries Commissioner Ram Shankar Naik said kisan credit cards were being issued to fish farmers, but insurance cover should also be provided to them under the Prime Minister's Fasal Bima Yojana.

U Viswanadha Raju, Chairman of the Bhimavaram-based Ananda group, one of the leading shrimp exporters from AP, said India ranked second in fish production in the world but China, the number one, was way ahead of India and concerted efforts should be made by all stakeholders to catch up with China.